Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.

Wow, so much ignorance in this video. Y’all probably know the problems with these arguments, but I think I’m gonna eat some of this low-hanging fruit and spell it out for those few who think the video makes remotely decent arguments:

1. “There is nothing in human experience that let’s us create something from nothing.”

A) Why limit yourself to human experience? Surely everyone can agree that lots of things happen that are outside our experience, like quantum effects, or time dilation, yet we know these things happen.

B) Which brings us to an uncomfortable fact: We know, scientifically, that there are particles which do spring into and out of existence! : Virtual particles (x)

C) And how exactly is god allowed to be an exception to this rule? **cough**cough** Special Pleading **cough**cough**

2. Paley’s Watch-In-The-Desert Argument

A) The main problem with Paley’s argument is, as Dawkins points, that watches (or phones) don’t mutate and reproduce. Evolution doesn’t argue the spontaneous creation of things like lions or or seagulls - they evolved. It takes millions of years for the process to produce dramatic results. Comparing it to an inanimate object is like comparing apples and rocks.

B) As Hume pointed out, we have experience with watch-making (or phone making). We know how phones are made. We know what it requires. We have experience with it and so know where not to expect to find them and we’re skeptical of processes producing it which are contrary to our experience. In contrast, Hume argued (and remember, he lived before Darwin), that we don’t have experience with whatever process produces the variety of living things on earth, so how can one say what they should or should not expect?

Put another way, my neighbor has an artificial waterfall in their yard, but I would be completely mistaken if I then concluded that all waterfalls in the world were constructed the same way - that is, by human intervention. So one can’t compare processes for things we know with those we don’t. It’s like comparing apples and aliens.

C) Lastly, as wonderfully basic as that old philosophical argument is, the fact is that we know for a fact that animals have evolved over time. Horses used to be 3 feet tall with 3 toes; now they’re 6 feet tall with one toe. There are bacteria which can digest synthetic materials which humans invented in the last century. We have fossil evidence, genetic evidence, anatomical evidence, etc etc. What do creationists have? Poor philosophy and an old book.

3. Earth is so perfect! “Everything we know about earth suggests it was designed to sustain life.”

Really? How about the fact that the vast majority of plants and animals can only use the outer crust of the earth as a home? How about the fact that 99% of species that ever existed have died? How about the mass die-offs that have occurred on the planet? How about the ice ages? How about epidemics? And tsunamis? And earthquakes? How about nature being ‘red in tooth and claw’ - that is, a savage struggle to survive. How about the fact that even on the surface of earth, much of the planet is extremely harsh: super hot deserts, freezing cold arctic, etc And that’s the earth we have now! The earth, for instance, used to have a different atmosphere. It used to be bombarded with lethal rays from the sun till things like the ozone layer developed.

In short, the earth sustains life, but I think it’s clear that only a biased judge would conclude that it was “designed to sustain life”.

4. The earth orbits the sun so perfectly!

A) Throughout the universe we find planets and stars which orbit each-other. The earth is not unique in that regard. at all.

And if the earth fell out of orbit, we’d just be one of many planets and stars which have done the same.

B) If earth wasn’t capable of supporting life (e.g. flew out of orbit or into the sun - and btw, we are slowly moving closer toward the sun), then we’d just not be here to talk about it. 

In other words, it’s like someone arguing that they have a truly perfect race car bc it’s never been in an accident. “This car wants me to live! This race-car will simply not get into an accident! Look at me, I’ve been driving it for years and I’m still alive!” That argument is great unless or until that person gets into an accident and dies. Then the argument no longer works - but the person isn’t here to see his mistake. It’s only bc he hasn’t died, that he can reach this faulty conclusion. That is, it’s only perfect till it’s not. Same with earth: If it didn’t support life, we wouldn’t be here to say, “wow, it supports life.” But the mere fact that it does support life - for now, most of the time - doesn’t imply that it was designed for life anymore than a planet which fell out of orbit was “designed not to have life!

C) That bit about the moon and the eclipse  - lol, yeah, that’s some critical thinking right there. “The moon looks about the same size as the sun. Clearly god did that! For what reason -  who the hell knows?! - but it’s so interesting it must be god!” lol

5. “We’ve got such a super balance of gases in our atmosphere!”

A) Yeah, except when we didn’t. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth#Evolution_of_Earth.27s_atmosphere

B) Much of the changes in the atmosphere were done by us and other living things. The earth is a giant ecosystem which evolves along with the living elements. The earth evolved an atmosphere which suits us (at least, at most places on the surface) just as much as we evolved to use that precise atmosphere.

If we lived near a hydrothermal vent, we’d be saying how great it is that our atmosphere is freezing, super dense salt-water with rushes of boiling sulfur oozing into it. “Clearly this was designed for us!” Orrrrrrr… we’d be like the many forms of life which evolved to live there.

6.) “It’s very soothing and comforting believing [in god]”

That could be the case (or could not be), but is still not a good reason to believe in anything. I might wish spider-man was patrolling the streets of NY, but that doesn’t make it so.

7. ‘The design we see makes for conclusive proof in god.’

A) I don’t see conclusive proof of design. At all.

B) Even if we did - which we don’t - that’s not conclusive proof for god. We could just as well imagine any extraordinary or supernatural explanation: Maybe aliens designed earth (or even our universe)? Maybe we’re living in the matrix? Could be anything. There’s no demonstration of how the alleged proof of design is proof of god. It’s just another one of those “therefore god” faux-arguments. 

8. “So who is god? We know from his final revelation…”

I’m gonna quote bluejewofzsouchmuhn here:

"God’s final revelation." —Muslims

"God’s new and improved testament." —Christians

"God’s original, no-bullshit, straight-up truth." —Jews

"Some stuff those other guys forgot to tell you about god." —Mormons

"Wait, you can’t leave me out of this." —Sun Myung Moon

"You’re all so confused. Here, let me help." —L. Ron Hubbard

Etc. etc. etc.

smh

(Source: godlessmen)

weedandpoker asked: I'm going to get back to you. I'm getting attacked right now, plus you wrote a lot.

take your time, and enjoy your flame war.

Jameela’s Story: Defying the Hijab

exhijabifashion:

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As soon as I came to London from Afghanistan at the age of 9, I was forced to wear the hijab, I was brainwashed and abused - I won’t go into details. And the older I got the worse it got. 

I was constantly reminded of marriage, how I should behave and was threatened that if I disobeyed them they will cane me and they even threatened to kill me if I ever thought of running away. I was a slave, I was forced to pray too, every aspect of my life was controlled. I could not have Facebook or Twitter, but I secretly had Twitter and one day they found out I had Instagram, I was beaten, and was made to kneel and apologise for my “slutty behaviour” and was given a final warning that they will take me out of university. Getting into university was hard because I had to beg and I had to have excellent grades to be even considered, it was my only alternative to staying at home. 

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When I started university I had to give in my timetable, I was not allowed contact with the opposite sex, my biological parents used Islam to justify their actions, saying that men and women should not be in the same room otherwise they will commit zina. They even forced me psychologically and physically to hand over my student finance loan and grant for “only sluts have money” and “you have to support the family”.

As I was getting older, talks of marriage became increasingly frequent, and so my biological mother also raised the issue of a wife’s “duties”.  I asked my biological mother what if a woman says no, she replied saying “no such thing”. 

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I met someone on Twitter last year who understands me, cares for me, and loves me, and I feel the same way about him. I fell in love and there was no way going back, I did not want to get married to someone against my choice. Girls in the Afghan culture get married off early and there were many proposals from Afghanistan and Pakistan and my parents were planning to go there on “holiday” and they said they will take me with them too. 

My partner is Jewish, and my biological parents have always referred to Jews as “filthy” and used Islam to justify their hate against Jews. I wanted to escape that hell, and I did. 

I bought a ticket to France and left. The first thing I did the moment I got on the train was throw the hijab in the bin where it belongs. I hate the concept of hijab, it is a symbol of oppression, created by men to chain women and anyone who speaks out against it is “disciplined” by ways of corporal punishment and/or rapes.

Me and my partner have got numerous death threats, and I was threatened with rape too. I recently got a message saying that I will be found and killed and my primitive biological father once told me that he is willing to kill for honour and he is more than happy to go to jail since “Queen Elizabeth, Her Majesty” will look after him. He calls himself a “proud” British citizen yet supports the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaida, every known terrorist organization. 

Now I am free, independent and I lead my life the way I want and with whom. I dress the way I want, I eat what I want, I control my life, I would rather die fighting for my principles than live on my knees.

image

Damn, this girl is brave!

(via bluejewofzsouchmuhn)

Anonymous asked: What do you think of rambam? Specifically his conception of god as a primal force, as an intellectual principle, as something that can only be defined by what it is not?

He’s interesting, less ridiculous than most of his rabbinic peers, and not a terrible philosopher.

God as a primal force must be clarified: If we mean something conscious with a will (as I’m pretty sure that Maimonides does), then, again, perhaps less ridiculous than other versions of god, but still not something I believe in. If he means a static, unthinking force, then I consider god indistinguishable from nature, and simply wouldn’t call it “god”, let alone worship it.

As for defining god by what it’s not, eh, I’m not sure I buy it as a sound position, and I don’t like how it’s easy to say what god is by just saying what he isn’t: “god isn’t plural” - i.e. god is one. “god isn’t weak” - i.e. god is mighty, etc, aside from the fact that bible itself uses many affirmative words for god’s nature. So, all in all, it seems like a bit too much semantic games for my liking.

But most importantly, I don’t believe any god exists, so having a slicker version of god still isn’t that impressive to me. It’s like when I watch movies about vampires: some try to make it more believable with subplots like ‘how it’s caused by a mutation” or a virus or whatever; and some vampire movies just embrace that it doesn’t make logical sense. I enjoy both, and I enjoy the “scientific explanations” that are sometimes offered - but I don’t find either convincing.

Anonymous asked: "If I were capable of grasping god objectively, I could not believe. But because I cannot do so, I must believe." -kirkegaard Thoughts?

Well, let’s first see the full quote:

"Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe [that is, one would "know" - JA], but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over 70,000 fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.”

Kierkegaard is of the opinion that actual knowledge of god is impossible, and so to “know” god can only mean “belief”, as in belief in the absence of real certainty.

I’m not sure if I agree philosophically with that position, because I’m not certain that it would be impossible for a god to make people “know” him with certainty. However, no god has clearly done that. No-one knows anything for certain. So, practically speaking, belief in god is faith-based, not knowledge based.

Put another way, Kierkegaard was endorsing “agnostic theism”, saying that “gnostic theism” is impossible. Interestingly, I agree with the flipped version of that, that it’s impossible to know for a fact that something like god (whether a version we’re familiar with or another kind) does not exist - which is why I’m an “agnostic atheist” (as are most atheists, including famous ones like Dawkins).

So, not sure I agree with the philosophy entirely, but I think he makes some good observations (“If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty”) and what to think about.

weedandpoker asked: Why do you need to be an extremist? Meaning if you are an atheist, why does. It seems like your entire page is based on what you believe, which is odd for an atheist, who don't usually wish to be defined as anything. When you were practicing Judaism, you couldn't be just a normal worshiper, you had to go the extreme orthodox route. It reminds me of this Palestinian rock thrower who became a Born Again Christian. Extreme, no matter how you guys see the world

I’m an extremist? lol

Well, I didn’t really have a choice on how I was raised. And I really don’t think my position now is “extreme”. I don’t think it’s radical to say, “I don’t believe in the entirely supposed existence of a supreme being,” just like I don’t think it’s extreme to say “I don’t believe in the supernatural”.

On the flipside, would you call someone who asserts that ‘this omni-being must definitely exist’ extreme? I might. Even someone saying that he thinks there’s a good chance that it’s true, say 50/50, strikes me as rather extreme. To me, that’s like someone asserting that “alien abduction stories might be true. It’s 50/50.” Or “Scientology might be true. It’s 50/50.” I would only concede that those things have a tiny, tiny chance of being true. And I think that’s a very logical, normal, and non-radical stance. My reasoning on “god” is exactly the same.

Also:

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@socialistexan pointed out that I probably misunderstood the intent of the message. (Sorry, a hazard of answering late at night when I’m a bit baked. [btw, “but then I got high” just started on my playlist! lol {miracle?!}])

Meaning if you are an atheist, why does. It seems like your entire page is based on what you believe, which is odd for an atheist, who don’t usually wish to be defined as anything.

1) “Based on what you believe.” - I don’t have a problem with “beliefs” if by that you basically mean an opinion, especially an informed and evidence based one.

2) “which is odd for an atheist, who don’t usually wish to be defined as anything.”

Well there’s a difference between having an opinion and being defined as something. Atheists may dislike being defined as, say, materialists bc some atheists may not be. I think atheists just don’t like being defined as anything other than an atheist for the purposes of discussion about atheism. But individually, we are often defined as many things: humanists (which I probably am), vegetarian (which I’m not), democrat (which I’m not), republican (which I’m not), etc etc.

Unless you maybe know some secret about what atheists prefer that I never heard of.

Also, maybe I’m just an odd atheists. As I said, we often have different opinions and philosophies, etc.

Or maybe you think it’s weird that I have a page devoted to the subject. Personally, I don’t. I’ve had blogs devoted to lots of things which interested me at the time. (For instance, I have a science blog with over 40,000 followers. And a sex blog with much, much fewer, lol!) I don’t think it’s weird or radical to have a page devoted to an interest one has. Additionally, I partially created this blog bc I noticed there weren’t many resources for ex-orthodox Jews.

So yeah, sorry not sorry if I seem too radical to you.

also, love this song: “Let’s get radical" by Gogol Bordello

Fun, Stupid, Email Exchange: Kuzari & Miracles

So I got an email a few months back with two “proofs” for judaism which with only a glance were clearly idiotic, and that’s basically what I said. So, I got a reply back recently saying that I was chickening out of answering and so decided to address this talmud chacham’s genius arguments. They’re really quite a study in rationalization and hero worship. Fascinating, really.

So, it begins by quoting a famous article from TalkReason, which contains some really great arguments against Judaism. (I’d suggest my email correspondent read the entire article.) But anyways, he tries to tackle the rhetorical letter with which the article begins. His two lines of attack: The Kuzari Argument” and “Tzadikim [holy men] performing Miracles!” My comments are in brackets and italicized. His in quote-blocks. Enjoy.

"Dear Rabbi,

Many years have passed since we studied Torah together. Since then you went on to become a prominent scholar and I continued with my business endeavors. Thank G-d, my business is doing well and I am able to devote part of my time to Torah studies. My wife and children are well and at least outwardly my family seems well integrated in the community where we live.

Inwardly, however, the last few years have been quite trying for me. I seem to have lost the calm and confidence I used to have in observing Yiddishkeit, in following the path which gave my life overall meaning, definite and absolute goals that I should strive to achieve. My belief that the Torah and only the Torah is the absolute Divine truth has been seriously challenged and I find myself at a loss to respond.

As you know, just about all religions in the world and many non-religious ideologies proudly state that the meaning they give to human life is the ultimate true meaning. Every religion claims that it contains the genuine Divine revelation and all the others hopelessly miss the true meaning of life. So how, objectively, do I know that Judaism’s claims to the truth are correct? Because I believe so? But then I cannot speak of the Divine plan for my life, only of my own invention, something I created in my own image, according to my personal considerations, hopes, and the inclinations of my heart. What I was taught to consider absolute becomes relative, and if that is so, I see no difference between me and an adherent of any other religion or ideology, G-d forbid.

I am looking for arguments to strengthen the rational basis of my faith. I am searching for answers to an assortment of problems so as to restore my confidence in the truth of our tradition. It is important to point out: I am not looking for absolute “mathematical” proofs, but rather for common sense plausibility, for an intellectually honest approach which would lead to a reasonable conclusion that the Torah is really from Heaven and that our Halachic tradition, which determines the practical behavior of a contemporary Jew, really has Divine authority.”

Dear Naftali,

Although I am not your rabbi, and, truth be told, not even a rabbi, as I am still before semicha, I will attempt to answer the questions you bring up in your letter, mainly because I have not yet seen others do so satisfactorily.

Let me preface by saying that I do not view myself as an ideologue. My goal here is to provide answers that I believe represent the truth, and if you believe that I have somehow miscalculated, I would greatly appreciate if you would let me know.

Read More

Anonymous asked: What is your opinion on the historicity of the United Monarchy?

Don’t know a thing about it.

Anonymous asked: To the last anon, Christopher Hitchens found out he was Jewish later on in life. Also he once said in an interview that every one of his close friends was Jewish.

Interesting! Thanks!

Anonymous asked: Was Christopher Hitchens antisemitic?

I don’t know, but I haven’t read anything from him which left me with that impression. However, he was anti-judaism, just as he was anti-religion in general. He was also very critical of Israel. But no, I don’t think he was antisemitic.

The Rational Approach to Divine Origin of Judaism REVIEW

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Thanks for submitting the link. Believe it or not, I was actually at the taping of that Kelemen lecture! And bc that speech and that argument had a profound effect on convincing me judaism was true, I have a special place in my heart for debunking what I now realize is the nonsense of his argument. (I’ve actually been working on and off on a huge ass rebuttal that lecture for a while now! I’ll finish it one of these days! lol)

Anyways, I appreciate your effort and approach, but I think if you want to convince someone the argument is wrong, you have to accept their premises and work from there, or slowly destruct the premises.

Simply saying, “oh, the Sinai narrative is false bc it was written later” may be true, but it won’t sway the believer (esp when you don’t cite sources for your many points - true though they may be!) and doesn’t address the argument which kelemen is making.

So, I appreciate your effort - and I’ve checked out your blog in the past, thanks! - but I think destroying that kelemen lecture is gonna require a lot more.

Which means we’ve got work to do! =]

http://www.academia.edu/3999244/A_God_of_Volcanoes_Did_Yahwism_Take_Root_in_Volcanic_Ashes_JSOT_38_no._4_2014_pp._387-424

This paper, written by a believing Jew, discusses the likelihood Yahweh was started by volcano worship. Most people would then become atheist but obviously Jacob Dunn is very devout.

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Would be awesome to have access to the article. Either way, for me, personally, whether Judaism began with volcano worship or alien worship or whatever doesn’t really matter to me as much as the fact that Judaism and the Torah just isn’t true.

The Infidel Paradox

rationaljew:

Once it becomes clear to the believer that the source of the infidel’s blasphemies are the product of false indoctrination, he should immediately call into question the legitimacy of his own beliefs, which were bestowed upon him by the very same process that the infidel acquired his own falsehoods. The infidel’s scriptures, proofs, miracles, prophets, commandments, rituals, and gods, are no less vivid or absolute to him than the believer’s. Once one realizes that the very nature of religious beliefs are solely dependent on the subjective nature of one’s own experience and indoctrination, it becomes clear that no deity could forge a system in which infidels (who make up the majority of humans by any religion’s standard) are expected to accept his divinity. Furthermore, he cannot credit those who worship him due to the fortuitous circumstances he conferred to them. Therefore the infidel is not worthy of punishment and the believer not worthy of reward. This is the paradox that every theist must confront.  

Spot on - and, if I may say, some beautiful word-smithing.